Chris Evans and Fearne Cotton are set to front a new music awards show for the BBC.
The Brit Awards have traditionally been the biggest night of the year in the UK music calendar, but now the BBC has announced plans to launch its own annual music bash this year.
It will be hosted by Radio 2’s Chris Evans – a host of ITV’s Brits coverage in years gone by – along with Fearne Cotton, and will come from Earl’s Court, which was a regular venue for the Brits until they moved to London’s O2 Arena in 2011.
The Beeb said today that the new event was the musical equivalent of its long-established Sports Personality Of The Year event, rather than a rival to the ITV show.
The new event comes after the Brits struggled to pull in a large audience in February. It was two million viewers down on last year and recorded the lowest audience since 2006, despite high-profile acts such as One Direction and Arctic Monkeys turning up to collect awards.
The BBC Music Awards will be staged on December 11 and are designed as ‘a spectacular celebration of the best in popular music from the last 12 months’.
It expects to attract the biggest names in music as well as up-and-coming stars who have been championed by BBC Introducing, which has helped break artists such as Jake Bugg and George Ezra.
Unlike the multitude of trophies handed over at some awards shows, the prizes in the two-hour event will concentrate on the British artist of the year, the international artist of the year and the song of the year.
Specialist BBC staff who understand the audience’s tastes – including presenters and music programme-makers – will choose the winners of the artist categories while the song prize will be subject to a public vote. The awards will be backed by Radio 1 and Radio 2 as well as TV’s The One Show, and the event will be broadcast by BBC1.
Bob Shennan, the controller of Radio 2 and Radio 6 Music, said: “The way we see this is, this for music is our annual moment where we reflect on the year in music through the prism of what we’ve done on the BBC, just like BBC Sport does with Sports Personality Of The Year.”
The BBC’s executive producer for live events, Guy Freeman, said: “We’re not filling this with male, female, group, everything else under the sun as an excuse to simply to give out a gong – this is a genuine reflection of the year, and that’s why it’s in December. It’s a very logical look back at the calendar year.”
He said performances on the night for the paying audience could include the recreation of a slot from Radio 1’s Live Lounge or an artist backed by a full orchestra.
Freeman was producer of the Brit Awards for three years and during a stint as ITV’s controller of music and events, he oversaw the annual Record Of The Year show, in which viewers voted for their favourite track of the preceding 12 months – although it was axed under his watch.
Chief executive of the BPI and Brit Awards Limited, Geoff Taylor, said of the new event: “We are very much in favour of anything that supports, celebrates and rewards British music.”